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Participatory Budgeting in Chicago’s 49th Ward
In February 2009, Alderman Joe Moore, of Chicago’s 49th Ward, decided to launch an experiment in democracy. Moore agreed to allow residents of his ward to decide how to spend his $1.4 million discretionary budget, through a democratic and inclusive process. The 49th Ward’s PB marks the first time in the US that ordinary residents are invited to directly allocate city budget funds.
The Participatory Budgeting Project has accompanied Alderman Moore through all stages of the initiative. To begin, we brought together over 30 local organizations and institutions (including schools, religious institutions, grassroots community organizations, NGOs, and neighborhood associations) to form a PB Steering Committee. In April and May we designed and facilitated a series of participatory workshops and meetings, in which the Steering Committee decided the basic structure and rules of the PB process. This exercise in participatory rule-making grounded the PB process in the particular characteristics and preferences of the 49th Ward, while also bringing together community leaders around a common project.
Throughout the process, we have advised both the Alderman’s office and the Steering Committee on meeting facilitation, staffing arrangements, educational materials, publicity materials, and a variety of other issues.
For more information see the 49th Ward PB website.
Participatory PB Evaluation in Toronto
In April 2009, Josh Lerner began a participatory evaluation of the PB process at Toronto Community Housing (TCH). Together with a team of 12 tenants, he is evaluating the building meetings, allocation days, and other parts of the PB, in order to suggest potential improvements.
The evaluation began with a series of capacity-building and planning workshops with tenant researchers, in which they helped design the research methodology and developed qualitative and quantitative research skills. Lerner then accompanied the tenants in observing meetings, interviewing fellow tenants, analyzing research findings, and presenting findings to staff.
The complete research findings, drawing on both the participatory research and other interviews and observations, will be reviewed during two Evaluation & Planning Workshops, in which tenants and staff will map out potential improvements to the PB process. A revised version of the participatory evaluation will continue for the 2010 PB.
For more information on PB at Toronto Community Housing see Toronto Community Housing’s PB Site.

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